On the eve of the second anniversary of South Sudan's independence, the top United Nations envoy there today commended the progress made so far while also noting the many challenges facing the young nation such as tackling insecurity, addressing human rights violations and strengthening public institutions.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July 2011, six years after the signing of the peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and the south. Over the past two years, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has been assisting the country in consolidating peace and security and helping to establish conditions for development.
"Many of us witnessed the outpouring of euphoria that greeted the dawn of independence of South Sudan. The mood of that day now seems like a fading memory," Hilde F. Johnson, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of UNMISS, told the Security Council in a briefing via video-link from the capital, Juba.
"We have since seen many setbacks and problems, and tensions with Sudan driving decisions that were challenged by many, including this Council," she added.
Progress to date includes improved relations with the Sudan, the internal dialogue with armed groups, and a renewed commitment to advancing the national reconciliation process. At the same time, a key challenge is the security situation in Jonglei state, where fighting between Government forces and armed groups has displaced thousands of civilians since January.
"The deterioration in the security situation in parts of South Sudan has been accompanied by human rights violations by both armed groups and national security institutions. National and state authorities are struggling to translate their commitments to improve respect for human rights into action," she stated.
"Cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, abuse and incidences of killings by security forces, as well as the inability of the authorities to hold those responsible to account, are cause for deep concern."
Echoing the call made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his latest report on South Sudan, Ms. Johnson urged the Government to establish effective, long-term strategies to address the underlying causes of perennial violence.
She added that UNMISS continues to support the Government's efforts to seek political solutions to inter-communal conflict and peace initiatives aimed at bringing durable solutions to disputes over scarce natural resources.
"The Mission is encouraging local authorities, community leaders and national figures to reinforce their efforts to foster reconciliation. It is also essential that national and state authorities, and the communities themselves, take the lead and assume full ownership of such processes."
The Government has also faced difficulties in implementing political reforms and strengthening public institutions, Ms. Johnson noted, adding that bodies crucial to a successful political transition require adequate budgetary support from the Government to advance their work.
The key determinant for developments in South Sudan, said the envoy, remains its relations with Sudan. Noting setbacks such as counter-accusations by both sides of military support to rebel groups in each other's territories, and the threat by Sudan to shut down the oil pipeline, Ms. Johnson said both countries should strengthen their cooperation towards peaceful coexistence.